Posts Tagged Pike’s Peak Writers Conference
The Pikes Peak Writers Conference for 2019, held yearly in Colorado Springs, was last weekend, May 3-5, 2019. Here’s a few impressions and takeaways I gleaned from the conference. Not comprehensive by any means.
Several speakers at the sessions I attended used the acronym “GMC” in their talks. This stands for “Goal/Motivation/Conflict,” three factors totally and absolutely necessary in the construction of a novel. I’d heard of each of those before, of course. You don’t study writing fiction without running into them over and over. But I’d never heard them grouped together in that manner. A very concise way to remember them.
Carol Berg gave an interesting talk on building order from chaos. The foundation of the story, she says, is layered from paragraph, scene, and story arc. Each paragraph draws readers through one idea, one topic. Each has one speaker. The first line of a paragraph should not be a summary of the paragraph. It’s not meant to be a preview of what’s coming. Paragraphs are merged into one scene. Each scene must contribute to the rising tension of the story. Each scene has a starting point and an ending point, and each affects what happens from that point on. All are essential to building the story arc. She recommends reading everything out loud to get a feel for the rhythm of the narrative. Good idea.
Brenda Speer, a lawyer practicing intellectual property law in Colorado Springs, gave a talk on using facts in fiction and nonfiction. Interestingly, she recommends getting permission from the person or agency who holds the rights to song lyrics before quoting them in a literary work. I—and many others, I understand—had always assumed that quoting just a couple of words or a few lines from a song or poem or similar work, would be okay either without, or with minimal attribution. Her feeling was: always get permission even for the shortest of quotes. Good to know.
Stant Litore gave a good talk on creating an unforgettable civilization in your work. Valuable for us sci-fi writers. Build a world either from the bottom up, that is, create a whole new world completely, or use the world we live in as a basis for a modified world that may look familiar, but has one or more unusual aspects. Interesting. I even bought one of his books.
Jennifer Rose talked on creating strong female characters. Of course you want your female characters, especially if they are the leading character, to be strong and capable of carrying the story. That applies to females as much as males. Female lead characters should be developed from the “ground up” as much as any male character. They are as capable as a man, but they aren’t superhuman. They have vulnerabilities too. There should be more than one female character in a story. Give them someone to talk to. They can have friendships with men that are not sexual.
Jonathan Mayberry talked about the short story, though most of his talk was geared toward submitting to anthologies, a process he’s very familiar with. The most interesting comment he made was that, in submitting to literary journals or magazines, submit to only one at a time. I’ve submitted many short stories to literary magazines, and most of the time it has been as a set of submissions to several journals at one time. Apparently, journal editors don’t like this. They prefer an exclusive look at the story. I can understand them wanting that, but it can take one journal several months to reply about your story, so I (and many others I understand), still submit to several journals at a time. I’m not sure if I’ll change my submission habits or not. Oh, well.
I talked to Lesley Sabga, an agent from the Seymour Agency, at the meeting, and she requested a look at the full manuscript of the first volume of my sci-fi trilogy. I sent it and a short synopsis and literary resume a few days after getting back. She also requested a very short summary of the second and third in the trilogy. We’ll see what happens.
I just got back from the 2018 edition of the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference, (#PPWC2018) and had a great time. As usual. Lots of good sessions on many different aspects of writing, and had a chance to pitch my first sci-fi novel to an editor. He asked for the first 50 pages, which, by the time I write this, have already been sent. I met lots of good writer friends, and handed out business cards. Business cards are always good, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
But what I want to consider in this blog post is one session in particular. It was titled “Fantasy and Sci Fi World Building: Writing Like an Anthropologist.” It was given by Darby Karchut, who’s written several sci-fi novels. The premise of the talk was a factor in world building that I had given some thought to as I wrote my trilogy, but hadn’t gone into in great detail. When building a new world for your characters, you have to supply them with all the intricate facets of life that we have here on Earth. It’s not enough to create a planet and populate it with aliens. They have a life. They have a history. They had to get on that planet somehow, and there may be a substantial number of details you haven’t thought of that play a role in your character’s daily life. (Assuming they have days and nights on their planet.)
Ms. Karchut listed eight factors that should be taken into account when worldbuilding. 1. What is the government like? Representative? Repressive? Dictatorial? 2. What is the economy like? What are the main driving forces in the economy? Science? Politics? Food? Beer? 3. Is there a religion? If so, how religious are your characters? 4. What is life like on your planet, and how do your characters spend their daily life? What dominates their daily life? 5. What are the arts like? Music? Movies? 6. What are the dominate social groups? To which group does your main character belong? Do you have rich and poor people? Or is everybody at the same social level? 7. History. Delve into the history of your planet. That one factor can shape the daily life of your characters in many different ways, especially ways you may not have thought about. 8. Language. What language do your characters speak? How did that language originate and how did it come down to them? If a visitor comes to your planet, how does that outsider know how to speak their language?
I appreciated this session because it brought up so many things I hadn’t thought about, or only briefly considered, about my characters and their home planet. If you write sci-fi, I strongly recommend you take these things into consideration. A reader will be more likely to keep reading if he/she understands that you’ve delved deeply into your imagination and taken the time to build a complete world. That’s what makes science fiction good: imagination. More so that most any other genre of writing. A well-thought out world may help fill plot holes, too, because if a difficult situation arises, you will have already developed a fully-functional economy that will give you a clue as to how your characters will act and how the difficulty will play out.
Well, I’m back from the 2016 edition of the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference which was held in Colorado Springs around the middle of April. Always a good meeting. Plenty of good workshops to attend, speakers to hear, and people to talk to. I usually have something to say in this venue about one or more of the workshops I attended, but this year I’m not going to single out any one or a few of them, except to say that the most intriguing one was a discussion on contracts. Assuming you get a publisher to agree to take on your book, you have to sign a contract with the publisher that spells out what is required on the part of the publisher and what you get in return. Contracts can be tricky, though large parts of them are negotiable. The tricky part is knowing what is and what’s not. I can’t go into details here because I’m far from expert in this matter. All I know is that contracts can have clauses in them that, if you’re not careful, can get you into areas you probably don’t want to go. Like, for example, binding you to one publisher for the rest of your career as a writer. Or not paying you what you really deserve. I’m more likely to go to an agent to interpret the contract and advise me about what to negotiate and what to leave alone, though it should be said that an agent isn’t always necessary. You takes your chances.
That being said, the most significant thing that happened to me at the conference was the meeting I had with an editor from a major publishing house. I go to the Pike’s Peak conference largely for the chance to pitch my science-fiction novel to an agent or editor. This year I selected an editor to pitch to rather than an agent, because I felt she might be most receptive to my particular style of sci-fi writing. She was, to a limited extent, and asked me to send her the first fifty pages of the novel. I did that immediately after I got back. But what was most interesting about this editor was that she seemed more impressed with my credentials than anyone else I’ve met in the publishing business. I’d heard many times that writing and publishing scientific papers was largely unimportant in the mass fiction market. It doesn’t make any difference, they said. It’s not relevant to publishing fiction. But having a PhD degree, and some experience in meeting deadlines, familiarity with proofs, and a brand that can be drawn on when it comes time to market and publicize the book, seemed to carry more weight with her than with anyone else I’ve met. The real question is, how will my book (or at least the first 50 pages) do? Is it good enough? We’ll see.